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PBS - This Old House (TOH) Eco-friendly Remodel

By HHI Staff

Taking on its first-ever project in Austin, Texas, This Old House shares strategies and solutions for transforming a historic house into a low maintenance, healthy, and comfortable eco-friendly home.


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The first of eight episodes began airing on PBS February 8, 2007. Check or local listings for dates and times in your area.

The renovation of a 1926 Craftsman-style bungalow for newly married homeowners Michele Grieshaber and Michael Klug will be “green” in nature, while making room for a growing family—including Michael’s two young sons, Sam and David—with the addition of two bedrooms and a modest full bath on a new second floor.


By using technologies that conserve energy and water, and opting for durable and sustainable materials, This Old House is taking an outdated house and giving it an energy-efficient future, while showing that “green” does not have to be experimental, or expensive.


Planning, Design, and Community


1926 craftsman-style bungalowThe This Old House Austin project renovation is being overseen and rated by Austin’s Green Building Program, one of the oldest and most comprehensive green building programs in the country. With their help and guidance, This Old House hopes to achieve a five star rating—a “green” rating so rare that only 35 of the more than 6,000 projects in the program’s history have qualified.


In renovating, rather than building new, This Old House is recycling old housing stock, using fewer resources.


Under the guidance of green architect David Webber, AIA, Michele and Michael are only adding on 800 square feet of new space—the architecturally sensitive addition is modest in scope, using less materials and resources. The homeowners believe in building only as much as they need, which is a green philosophy.


The tight-knit neighborhood of historic Hyde Park features the inherently green aspects of close community, diversity, access to public transportation, parks, schools, and plenty of stores within walking distance.


Green Builder & Jobsite


1926 bungalow project-host, team, & familyThe project builder, Bill Moore, was one of the founding members of Austin’s Green Building Program, and has been building green in Austin for 30 years.


On the jobsite, Bill practices deconstruction rather than demolition with a LEED documented waste management system—where all waste is either reused, recycled, or disposed of responsibly. Recycling of daily trash, using big coolers for water instead of wasteful plastic bottles, using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) in work lights, and a portable jobsite toilet that uses non-toxic chemicals are all examples of how Bill runs a green jobsite.


Framing, Exterior, and Building Envelope

  • Use of floor trusses and finger jointed studs replaces solid lumber with resource-efficient engineered lumber products.
  • Use of OSB instead of plywood uses fewer natural resources. Use of LVL wood joists uses fast-growing, small-diameter trees efficiently.
  • Standing seam metal roof is made from recycled materials, is durable and low-maintenance, more reflective than composition shingles, and is ultimately recyclable.
  • Exterior siding: keeping existing wood claps where possible, while new work will include cement board siding, which is durable and low-maintenance.
  • Where possible, old windows have been rehabbed. New windows and patio doors feature exterior cladding for durability and double-pane insulating glass with a low-E coating to reduce solar heat gain.
  • Spray foam insulation expands to seal gaps, resulting in a more airtight building envelope than can be achieved with batt insulation. No CFCs, no formaldehyde.
  • Decking on second floor is a composite decking that is made of waste wood pulp and recycled plastic.
  • Addition of 2.45kW solar array on the south facing roof of the new addition will supply or provide half of the annual power bill (assuming average use) and will eliminate over 6,000 lbs. of CO2 emissions per year.
  • Use of locally quarried limestone to replace deteriorated stone caps on front porch.
  • Use of environmentally friendly borate solution in treating perimeter wood to ward off future termite damage.

HVAC & Plumbing

  • Recycling and responsible disposal of old A/C system, certified recovery of old Freon, and addition of new high-efficiency A/C units and gas furnace.
  • All heating and cooling ducts are located in conditioned space and not in an overheated attic to reduce heat gain into the cool ducts in the summer, direct any leaking conditioned air into the living space, and improve overall system performance.
  • Correct sizing of the AC system capacity by code required methods.
  • Central vacuum and bathroom fans to improve indoor air quality.
  • Tankless hot water heater with on-demand circulator pump to reduce energy use.
  • Use of high efficiency, low flow toilets, low flow faucets, and water filtration.

Interiors1926 bungalow project interior

  • Using locally produced cabinets made from sustainable material—formaldehyde-free MDF—which produces no “off gassing” of potentially toxic adhesive chemicals, improving indoor air quality. The MDF is made from 100% post-industrial recycled wood fiber.
  • Cabinet face frames are made from Lyptus, a plantation-grow sustainable eucalyptus hybrid that reaches maturity in 15-17 years.
  • Recycled glass and concrete countertops containing 95% recycled material and low toxicity.
  • Tile for new bath contains 50% recycled content.
  • Using salvaged interior doors and glass knobs instead of buying new reduces consumption of materials.
  • Use of reclaimed wood in new flooring for addition extends the useful lifetime of the flooring and uses less natural resources.
  • Low VOC paints reduce offgassing to improve indoor air quality for both workers and homeowners.
  • Use of custom shutters and cellular shades to reduce solar heat gain, and increase efficiency of windows.
Lighting and Appliances
  • Custom light fixtures made locally featuring dimmable CFLs
  • LED lighting
  • Energy Star rated ceiling fans
  • Energy Star rated appliances
  • Rainwater harvesting system will capture rainwater off the metal roof for storage and reuse in drip irrigation system.
  • Xeriscaping—eliminating invasive plants and building the hardscape and landscape out of native materials and native plants—will result in a naturally low water and draught-resistant landscape.
Austin Inspirations and Road Trips

With the goal of achieving a five star energy rating in the Lone Star State, This Old House visits two local homes that illustrate what it takes to receive this prestigious rating. First, builder Bill Moore guides viewers through one of his former projects, an elegant example of another “old house” that is now green. This Old House also travels to what has been called “the greenest house in America”—an eco-friendly Craftsman-style house of entirely new construction. In addition to seeking inspiration from some completed projects, This Old House scouts out where to find the best durable and sustainable materials and products. Two such places are a Texas-based lighting workshop where the Austin project’s low energy lighting fixtures will be made, and a Brooklyn, NY factory where the crew will go behind-the-scenes to see how recycled glass countertops are manufactured.


To get a different take on eco-friendly materials, This Old House goes to an architectural salvage expert in Gonzales, Texas to take a look at the glass doorknobs and single-panel doors that will help give the newly constructed second floor of the Austin project an old-house feel. This Old House’s stay in Austin wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to the local music scene and visiting the legendary Continental Club where some of the most famous names in music got their start. The expert crew also gets an up-close look at one of Austin's most important architectural landmarks, their State Capital, and infuses some true cowboy-style into master carpenter Norm Abram’s legendary plaid collection with a visit to Allen’s Boots, a favorite shopping destination on South Congress street.



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PBS - This Old House (TOH) Eco-friendly Remodel:  Created on March 26th, 2007.  Last Modified on December 19th, 2013


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